No. 18 Jayhawks set to meet Beavers Friday in Lincoln

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks will hit the road for the first time in 2018 when they make the trek to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Husker Invitational, where they’ll meet a pair of Pac-12 schools this weekend. KU will face Oregon State on Friday, Aug. 24 at Hibner Stadium, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. (CT).

  • The Jayhawks checked in at No. 18 in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll, making it the fourth season in the last five that Kansas has made an appearance in the NCAA’s top-25 rankings.
  • KU is coming off opening weekend victories over then-No. 18 Pepperdine and South Dakota State. The victory over the Waves on opening night marked the Jayhawks’ third win over a top-25 team in its last seven outings at Rock Chalk Park, dating back to last season.
  • A win over the Beavers this Friday would give KU its first 3-0-0 start to a season since 2014 and the sixth time in head coach Mark Francis’ 20 seasons in Lawrence.
  • Forward Katie McClure kicked off her junior year with two goals and an assist during the opening weekend, a feat which earned her Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week accolades as well as TopDrawerSoccer’s Player of the Week award.
  • Freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters picked up shutouts in her first two collegiate starts last weekend. That made her the first true freshman goalkeeper to tally a clean sheet in her first two career start for the Jayhawks.
  • Kansas returns 17 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s squad that finished 8-9-3 and posted a pair of victories over top-10 ranked teams. KU notched a sixth-place finish in Big 12 play with a 3-5-1 record.
  • Head coach Mark Francis is entering his 20th season at the helm in Lawrence, boasting a 207-157-31 record with KU. He is just eight victories from hitting the 250-plateu in career coaching wins as he holds a 242-182-32 record in his 23 years of collegiate coaching.

Kansas is ranked No. 18 by the United Soccer Coaches following opening weekend victories over then-No. 18 Pepperdine and South Dakota State. The Jayhawks have yet to concede a goal in 2018 and have been led on the offensive end by junior Katie McClure, who posted a pair of goals and an assist in the first two matches of the season. Those performances earned her Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors as well as TopDrawerSoccer’s National Player of the Week award.
In addition to McClure, the Jayhawk offense enjoyed an effective opening weekend, averaging 15 shots in its two games, putting nine of those on frame. The Jayhawks saw 11 players tally at least one shot in their first two games and four different players post a goal or an assist. KU’s top returning goal scorer is senior Grace Hagan, who has led the team with seven goals in each of her last two seasons.
The KU defense has already showed it will be a tough match-up for most offenses in 2018, having yet to concede a goal and allowing just 15 shots in the Jayhawks’ first two games. The two KU opponents only put four of those 15 strikes on frame. Freshman Sarah Peters was the starting keeper over the opening weekend and tallied a pair of shutouts and collected four saves in her first two collegiate outings.
An early goal by junior Madison Meador and a pair of second-half strikes led Kansas soccer past the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, 3-0, last Sunday afternoon at Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks improved their record to 2-0-0 to start the season, the team’s best start since 2014.
In the 17th minute, junior Katie McClure found the head of Meador on a pin-point corner kick service that the Ballwin, Missouri product sent to the back of the net to put her team up 1-0 and to tally her first-collegiate goal.
It took McClure just over two minutes into the second period to give KU a 2-0 lead. The junior forward found the back of the net on a near post goal after some impressive combination passing with fellow Wichita native Grace Hagan. Kansas added a third goal off the foot of junior Taylor Christie 30 minutes later as she beat the South Dakota State defense on a 40-yard sprint. The Overland Park, Kansas product hit the ball just inside the far post to tally the first goal for her in a Jayhawk uniform.
Kansas freshman goalkeeper Sarah Peters earned her second clean sheet in as many starts for the Crimson and Blue, collecting seven saves to keep the Jackrabbits off the board. Kansas outshot the SDSU 24-7 on the day.
Oregon State, located in Corvallis, Oregon, with an enrollment of 30,592, is coming off a tough opening weekend that saw the Beavers drop both matches (vs. Clemson, 0-1 and vs. Stony Brook, 1-2). OSU entered the 2018 campaign after posting a 6-10-3 record and finishing eighth in the Pac-12 at 3-7-1 in 2017. The Beavers return 12 of 21 letterwinners from that team, but are trying to fill the void left by their top two goal scorers from a season ago, Emma Jones and Natalie Higgins, who combined for six of the team’s 10 goals and four of its seven assists.
The Beaver offense struggled in its first two outings of the year, managing just four shots in its 1-0 loss to Clemson, before tallying 23 shots but only finding the back of the net once in the 2-1 loss to Stony Brook. Junior forward Toni Malone posted five shots over the first two games to lead the squad, while senior defender Kate Evans tallied the team’s first and only goal of the weekend. OSU put over half of their 27 shots (14) on frame in those first two matches.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Beavers have allowed three goals with opponents able to get off 14.5 shots per match. In goal, freshman Bridgette Skiba got the start in her team’s first two matches this season, collecting 12 saves for a .800 save percentage and a 1.47 goals-against average.
Linus Rhode is starting his 11th season as the head coach at Oregon State. Rhode has guided the Beavers to an 86-95-23 record during his time in Corvallis. Rhode won 60 matches in his first five seasons as the head coach, including a school-record 16 wins in his third year after tying the school-record with 14 wins in his second year.
Following a pair of opening-weekend wins, both of which were shutouts, and one of which was over the 18th-ranked team in the nation, the voters for several national polls showed their appreciation for the Jayhawks’ work thus far in 2018, moving them from unranked and into the top-25.
Kansas made its fourth appearance in five seasons in the United Soccer Coaches’ poll when it posted KU at No. 18 this week. KU’s highest all-time ranking in that poll (formerly the NSCAA Coaches’ poll) was No. 6 during the 2004 season. The Jayhawks also peaked inside the top-10 during their 2014 campaign, climbing as high as No. 9. Last season, Kansas found itself among the top-25 during one week, checking in at 19th on Sept. 5. The TopDrawerSoccer rankings also have the Jayhawks receiving votes, but not quite in the top-25 list.
Junior forward Katie McClure claimed a pair of accolades following her stellar performances in Kansas soccer’s two opening-weekend victories. McClure was named the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week, while also earning Player of the Week honors from TopDrawerSoccer. The Big 12 weekly award was McClure’s second after being named the league’s Freshman of the Week in 2016 and became the first Jayhawk since Liana Salazar in 2015 to garner Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week accolades.
The Wichita, Kansas product was also named to TopDrawerSoccer’s 11-player Team of the Week, heading up the list as the outlet’s Player of the Week.
McClure was a key piece in both the Jayhawks’ wins during the opening weekend of the regular season. She began the weekend by scoring the eventual game-winning goal in KU’s 1-0 upset over No. 18 Pepperdine Friday night in Lawrence. Two days later, she tallied an assist on what would be the game-winning goal in the Jayhawks’ 3-0 victory over South Dakota State. She also sent in her second goal in as many games in the second half of the match with the Jackrabbits.
With this weekend’s first road trip of the 2018 season, the Jayhawks will look to continue their trend of relatively strong performances in matches away from Rock Chalk Park in the recent years. Kansas can hang its hat on an impressive record in road games over the past four years. KU has played 38 regular-season road games since the start of the 2014 season, amassing a record of 19-13-6, which included a 4-4-2 record last year. The Jayhawks hope they can continue this trend over the next month, with five of their next eight matches away from Lawrence.
The 2018 edition of the Jayhawks will be a youthful bunch, with 16 of the 30-woman roster boasting only one season of collegiate experience or less. There are 11 newcomers on this season’s roster, including 10 true freshman, who the coaches are leaning on to contribute almost immediately. The squad will feature four seniors, two of whom are in their fifth year.
The 2017 Jayhawks will try to fill the void left by a key group of players lost to graduation following last season. KU will have to navigate through the departure of four players that were a part of 44 KU victories since 2014 and helped their team to a pair of top-three finishes in the Big 12 as well as two NCAA Tournament berths. Combined, Maddie Dobyns, Kayla Morrison, Hannah Lukinac and Lois Heuchan accumulated 203 starts and have played over 17,800 minutes in the Crimson and Blue. That Jayhawk senior class amassed a record of 44-30-9. This made it the eighth class in program history to have achieved 43 or more wins in a four-year span.
Dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, now at 125 games, Kansas has developed an interesting trend when it comes to which team tallies the first goal of the match. During that 125-game span, the Jayhawks were on the losing end only twice in contests which they put in the match’s first goal. Kansas has amassed a record of 58-2-7 in those games, which included a 6-1-2 mark last year and already a 2-0-0 mark in 2018. The Jayhawks’ loss at BYU on Sept. 18 of 2017 was their first in 51 matches when they scored first.
On the flip side, KU wasn’t quite as fortunate when its opponents have gotten on the board first. Kansas’ win over Texas on Oct. 13 of last year marked just the fifth victory for the Jayhawks in that same 124-game span when finding itself trailing 1-0 at any point in a match. Kansas is now 5-46-4 in those games over the last five seasons, which included eight of KU’s losses and a tie in 2017.
Senior forward Grace Hagan hopes to put an emphatic stamp on an already outstanding career at KU. Last year saw her make headlines across the state, the region and the nation. She kicked off the year beginning named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and ended it on the All-Big 12 second team and the All-South Region Third team. She led the Jayhawks with seven goals, five assists and 19 points, figures that ranked the Wichita product among the top-10 in the Big 12 in their respective categories.
As she heads into her senior season, she will be in prime position to make big jumps on some impressive lists, creeping closer to inserting her name among the top offensive players in Jayhawk history. Her 18 career goals currently rank her 10th on Kansas’ all-time goal scorer chart and have her only one shy from inserting her name among the school’s top-10. Hagan’s 13 career assists also have her at No. 12 on KU’s all-time assists list.
This season, the Jayhawks will look to make it 11-straight seasons with a .500 winning percentage or better against regular-season nonconference foes. Since the start of the 2012 season, Kansas has posted an impressive 39-19-7 mark in its 65 regular-season nonconference matches (65%), which includes a 27-12-4 mark since 2014. In the last six seasons, KU has outscored noncon opponents by a tally of 110-65. Mark Francis has led KU to a winning record in noncon in 18 of his 19 seasons in Lawrence and is 119-51-11 in regular-season nonconference games.
Kansas soccer was predicted to finish sixth in the 2018 league standings according to the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll which was released this week. The ranking marks the sixth time in the last seven years that KU has been picked sixth or higher in the conference’s preseason poll.
West Virginia was picked to finish at the top of the standings for the sixth consecutive year. The five-time Big 12 champion received eight of the nine first-place votes and are ranked No. 9 nationally in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. Oklahoma State, who captured the 2017 Big 12 regular-season championship, was projected to place second with 69 points. Baylor and Texas were tied for third in the preseason poll with 59 points. Both squads are ranked in the United Soccer Coaches national preseason Top 25, Baylor at No. 15 and Texas at No. 17. TCU, the 2017 Big 12 Championship runner-up, was chosen fifth. Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma were next at sixth, seventh and eighth. Kansas State and Iowa State rounded out the poll in the ninth and tenth.
Kansas will close out their trip to Lincoln, when they meet the Oregon Ducks in a 10 a.m. kickoff Sunday, Aug. 26. The Ducks, who are receiving votes in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, are 2-0 following opening weekend wins over Stony Brook and Clemson. The match will be streamed live on Big Ten Network Plus.



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